Vikings

Vikings Fans Should Let the Lions Have Their Moment

Photo Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday afternoon, there was a celebration 30 years in the making at Ford Field. The Detroit Lions had already won their first division title since 1993 and their first playoff game since 1991. After winning on Sunday, Detroit will battle the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.

That’s right. The Lions. In the NFC Championship Game. And with a win, they could be in the Super Bowl.

But while Detroit was in a cheerful mood, there was a different vibe in Minnesota. The salt was flowing, and it wasn’t to clear I-94. The Vikings season had ended three weeks before with a loss in Detroit, which kicked off an offseason with several difficult decisions to shape the franchise ahead.

It’s okay to be upset with the direction the Vikings could be going. But fans shouldn’t take it out on the Lions.

Detroit’s playoff run has NFC North rivals conflicted. The Lions have been a walking dumpster fire since the 1950s and haven’t come close to making a run in the last 30 years.

The Green Bay Packers have won three Super Bowls during that time, and the Chicago Bears won one. While the Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, at least they’ve been to four of them in the 1970s. That’s four more than any Lions fan has seen during their lifetime.

Vikings history is full of pain. But Lions fans have experienced something worse: apathy.

They watched Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson walk out the door in their prime and saw more draft busts than they care to recall. They sat through Matt Patricia, Matt Millen, and Steve Mariucci and saw Dan Orlovsky run out of the back of the end zone. And they had the first 0-16 season in NFL history.

This isn’t a competition over who has experienced more pain. It’s looking at a fanbase that is due, much like the Vikings have been waiting to return to the Super Bowl since 1977.

But this run is complicated for Vikings fans. The Lions made their way to the playoffs after beating Minnesota twice in the final three weeks, including a division-clinching win at U.S. Bank Stadium. Suppose you believed that Kirk Cousins would have led the Vikings to a division title had he not gotten hurt. Then, the losses would have driven you insane, especially considering what happened next.

Safety Kerby Joseph gave T.J. Hockenson a multi-ligament knee injury by going low and delivered a similar hit to Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee in the Wild Card round. For a team whose head coach threatened to eat his opponents’ kneecaps, the hits seem suspicious, especially when some Lions fans have embraced the injuries as a rallying cry.

Some Lions also booed Matthew Stafford, his wife, and his kids in his return to Detroit. Stafford was one of the few things the Lions franchise had going for it before the run, and the Stafford trade rejuvenated the Lions. But he probably got the same treatment that Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers would have received if they played in Detroit’s first home playoff game in 30 years.

Those incidents have tarnished the Lions run in the eyes of some Vikings fans, but it’s important to remember they don’t represent everyone. Every fanbase has a layer of phlegm to it. Some Vikings fans would be lying if they said they weren’t euphoric when Anthony Barr snapped Rodgers’ collarbone in 2017.

Scrape away that layer, though, and there’s plenty of good that Vikings fans can relate to.

Sean McVay essentially banished Jared Goff in Los Angeles, but Goff revived his career in Detroit. Some Rams fans blamed Goff for the loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII and saw him as a throw-in to the Stafford trade that included multiple first-round picks.

Goff’s time in Detroit didn’t start well, but he rebounded in a big way. Now the Lions fanbase chants his name before games.

Detroit’s brain trust also has its feel-good moments. General manager Brad Holmes worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car while trying to get a job in the NFL and orchestrated the type of turnaround that Vikings fans should hope Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can pull off. While it’s unfortunate the Vikings have to play him twice a year, you can’t help but smile at his reaction to the Lions’ win over the Rams in the Wild Card game.

Then there’s Dan Campbell, who became America’s football sweetheart before Jason Kelce made it cool. For the first year and a half on the job, Campbell gave the vibe of Homer Simpson trying to design a car for his brother, Herb. But he caught his stride a year and a half ago and has the Lions on their best run in decades.

All of this could fatigue Vikings fans who don’t want to deal with the possibility of the Lions (yes, the Lions) winning a Super Bowl before they do. But at this point of the playoffs, Detroit getting to the big game might be exactly what they need to move forward.

The Lions had a legendary quarterback, moved on, and found a way to become a true contender only three years after bottoming out. While the Vikings don’t need to bottom out, they can look at Detroit as an example of how quickly a franchise can turn around.

And if we’re being honest, who else will you pull for in the conference championship games?

The San Francisco 49ers have the charisma of a robot. Their head coach is one miserable Brock Purdy performance away from writing letters to Cousins like he’s Eminem’s super fan, Stan.

The Kansas City Chiefs are flanked by two of the most beloved people in America, Jason Kelce and Taylor Swift. But Mahomes has undergone a heel turn that is straight out of a WWE storyline.

Maybe you could argue that you would rather see the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl. It would be better than seeing the Vikings become the only NFC North team without a Lombardi Trophy, and former Minnesota legends Dalvin Cook and Laquon Treadwell would get rings. (Technically, they’re still one of us, dontcha know?)

There are many options you could cheer for. But even if the Vikings aren’t there, it’s okay to let Lions fans have their moment – until the two teams square off next season.

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